FAMILIES OF DISAPPEARED PEOPLE IN BALUCHISTAN SEEK TANGIBLE GOVT INTERVENTION

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Quetta: Beleaguered families from Baluchistan whose members have disappeared over the last many years due to action of the Pakistani security agencies, are demanding tangible government action on the issue than mere lip service by successive Prime Ministers.
Enforced disappearances, which began several years ago in Baluchistan and erstwhile Fata on the pretext of fighting terrorists and insurgents, have extended to major urban centres, including Islamabad, KP and Sindh over the years, Dawn reported.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that he would raise the issue of Baluchistan’s missing persons with “powerful quarters”, vowing to raise his voice on the issue, Dawn reported.
However, many including Sammi Deen Baloch, the daughter of Dr Deen Muhammad who has been missing since mid-2009, isn’t too optimistic about Prime Minister’s assurance, the report said.
“Ever since the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) came to power in 2008, all Prime Ministers have talked about the missing persons,” Baloch said, adding, “All of them have vowed to address the issue. But there has been no progress to this day.”
“Like Shehbaz Sharif, other Prime Ministers, including Imran Khan, assured us that the issue of Baloch missing persons is their top priority, but we have yet to see the results,” Baloch further said.
Following persistent campaigning by family members of these missing people and human rights groups, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was established in March 2011, but that too managed to trace only a handful of those missing, the report said.
In 2022 alone, till now, 158 persons have been reported as “missing” to the commission.
Some rights activists estimate there still remain over 2,000 unresolved cases with the commission. In many cases, rights groups have blamed the security agencies for taking away people over suspicion of their involvement in militant activities — a charge repeatedly denied by the authorities.
Earlier this month, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah equated enforced disappearances with treason. The remark came during the hearing of missing journalist Mudassar Naaru’s case at the IHC. Naru, a journalist from Lahore, went missing in August 2018.
“Can anyone be disappeared without their [federal and provincial governments’] will? No,” the judge declared. “People going missing are the incompetence of the State. The Executive is responsible if the state agencies are not in control. Why don’t we declare the executive responsible for it?”
Enforced disappearances are used as a tool by Pakistani authorities to terrorize people who question the all-powerful army establishment of the country, or seek individual or social rights. Cases of enforced disappearances have been majorly recorded in the Baluchistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of the country which host active separatist movements.
A recent report unveiled by the US revealed that over 8,000 people were missing in the country during 2021 including 1,200 missing in Sindh province in the last six months.

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